International Rugby
New-look scrum set to debut in Rugby Championship
ESPN Staff
July 8, 2013
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw adds his weight to a scrum, New Zealand v Australia, Rugby World Cup, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, October 16, 2011
The scrum engagement process will take on a new look in this year's battle for southern hemisphere supremacy © Getty Images

This year's Rugby Championship will provide the backdrop to the debut of the new 'crouch, bind, set' scrum engagement trial.

The trial, a revision of the 'crouch, touch, set' engagement sequence currently being trialled across the globe by the International Rugby Board, was not set to begin in the southern hemisphere until the start of next year's Super Rugby competition but will now be introduced ahead of the opening game of the Rugby Championship between Australia and New Zealand on August 17 following a request by SANZAR, the organising body for both competitions.

The northern hemisphere will adopt the trial, aimed at enhancing player welfare and boosting scrum stability, at the start of their new domestic season - with France's Top 14 set to kick off first in August - and SANZAR officials were keen to ensure their leading players were up-to-speed ahead of the November international window.

SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters said, "It will mean our international players will have been exposed to the new engagement process prior to heading north for the Tests in November where this process will have been in place since the start of that season in September.

"Player welfare is of utmost importance and we feel the global trial is taking positive steps to improve this area of the game and we look forward to seeing the new Law in action during The Rugby Championship from August."

The trial is aimed at enhancing player welfare by reducing the impact of engagement by up to 25 per cent, as well as consolidating first-time completion rate of scrums and therefore enhancing the spectacle for fans. Referees will also be instructed to ensure that the scrum is static before the ball is put into the scrum and that the ball goes in straight.

In related news, the IRB has announced the introduction of neutral television match officials (TMOs) for Test matches from August. Until now only referees and assistant referees were required to be from neutral countries due to 'geographical and economic challenges'. The change follows an extensive review of the role of the TMO and the results an on-going trial that allows them to rule on up to two phases (rucks or mauls) before the ball is grounded and potential acts of foul play, rather than just the act of scoring.

"The neutral policy further enhances integrity and reduces pressure on the person tasked with this important role while ensuring that we continue to promote and appoint our very best TMOs to test matches," said IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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